Sunday 29th January 2017
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The Labour and Green parties fired the opening salvo in their election year bid to present a united front committed to changing what both its leaders described as a "tired government" that was out of ideas after three terms in office.
A combined crowd of Labour and Green party supporters filled the Mt Albert community hall to overflowing for a carefully choreographed 'state of the nation' event in the heart of an electorate where the two parties are contesting a by-election to replace former Labour MP David Shearer, and which the National and NZ First parties have decided not to contest.
Little's pitch was a combination of highlighting Labour's policies to build 10,000 new houses a year, shore up health spending and invest in education, an appeal to Labour and the Greens as standard-bearers for tolerant, progressive politics at a time when global politics is swinging to harsher prescriptions, and attacks on newly appointed Prime Minister Bill English for failures of leadership.
"The places that used to light world with their progressive thinking - their lights shine more dimly now," said Little, referring to the US under president Donald Trump and the rise of far right politicians in Europe. "We can set the standard for cooperation, for tolerance, for a government that governs with compassion."
Both his and Green co-leader Metiria Turei's speech were short on specifics of new economic policy, made no mention of immigration policy beyond Turei promising to double New Zealand's refugee quota.
However, Little did commit Labour to running surpluses and paying down government debt, and told journalists after the event that the two parties were working on a set of principles to govern economic management.
"You can expect to see some time soon a shared commitment to a set of principles and guidelines that will govern us in terms of economic management," Little said. New Zealanders will get a very clear understanding on what constraints we’re putting on what we’re doing and what they can expect from a Labour-Greens government."
Both Little and Turei hammered English for failing to attend Waitangi Day celebrations at Waitangi, declining to contest Mt Albert, and not firing "the failed Housing Minister, his friend Nick Smith.
"Here's the truth: National is out of ideas and out of touch. They've got nothing new to offer. Bill English said it this week. He said: 'we've reached the limits of what government can do'.
"Bill English is a competent bean-counter but he's showing he's not a leader."
Turei aimed her comments at women voters, honouring "fierce women" who stood up for their beliefs and accusing male National MPs of using "rape as a political weapon" in an incident at Palriament in 2015, when female Green and Labour MPs walked out en masse in response to comments by then Prime Minister John Key.
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